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Well, it’s been quite a first-half-of-the-week.

Since going offline, we have been overwhelmed by expressions of support. At one point on monday, my entire Twitter client was filled with people retweeting things about ErnestMarples, to the exclusion of everything else. Quite astonishing.

There’s also been an amazing amount of media coverage — from the BBC, the Guardian, BoingBoing, the Register, Computer Weekly, and more besides. Many thanks to everyone who’s written about us or helped to spread the word.

So, what now for ErnestMarples?

We didn’t start with the intention of making money from the service. It was always here to be used by sites like PlanningAlerts, Healthwhere and JobcentreProPlus, which are socially useful tools that create tangible benefit for people. We hoped that the Royal Mail would let us be, but things don’t seem to have turned out that way.

We’re genuinely interested in finding a constructive way forward. We haven’t heard back from Cameron McKenna, or the Royal Mail, but we’ve sent them the following letter all the same:

Dear Sirs, was set up primarily to provide a service to socially useful websites: mostly non-commercial services that operate in order to create real, tangible benefit to individuals.

This is very much in line with the Government’s current policy, produced by the Power of Information taskforce, to promote innovation in third sector provision of public services, particularly online.

It was our sincere hope when starting the service that it would be possible to reach an agreement with your client to continue operating it on terms that they find acceptable.

As you have requested, our service has now been disabled. Since then, we have received overwhelming expressions of support from a wide variety of people and organisations from NGOs and Parliamentarians to blogs, news publications and hundreds of individuals.

There is a significant need for postcode data to be made available on more practical terms. We would very much like to open a dialogue with your client in order to see if a productive and mutually beneficial way forward can be found.

We would be grateful if you could pass this offer to your client. We look forward to their reply.

Yours Faithfully,

Harry Metcalfe & Richard Pope

Download this as a PDF

We really hope that they’ll take this letter seriously and have a genuine conversation with us about what should happen next.

Update: Tom Watson MP has also written to the Royal Mail.


  1. Bill stickers wrote:

    If someone released the entire post code database as a bit-torrent file. The impossibility of ever getting the data back might force the post office to consider that the revenue they get selling the database is too little to bother with.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink
  2. Harry wrote:

    Unfortunately, there are many thousands of changes to the postcode database every month — so leaked copies get out of date very quickly.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  3. Chris Mear wrote:

    Harry: the Google Group link goes to a private admin page; probably wants to be instead.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  4. Harry wrote:

    Oops :)

    Fixed now — thanks!

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink
  5. Dan Morelle wrote:

    1 letter from a law firm with a big name and you roll over? I don’t understand. If you’re not using their database then you are not infringing. Be careful RM are not playing Queensbury Rules. They’ve just lost the Amazon contract so will be looking for new revenue channels. Litigation is a nice one when the economy is going down the pan. Good luck!

    Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Permalink
  6. Dave Harvey wrote:

    Suggestion: If the Royal Mail insist that the postcode data is THEIR property and not to be used by others without their permission, then let’s follow that logic, and (as private users) refuse to USE it on our letters! A public postcode “strike” whereby we all refused to use postcodes utnil they allowed us to access them officially would costs them a lot of money!

    Friday, October 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

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  1. VoteUK – Updates – Terence Eden has a Blog on Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    [...] the tragic death of Ernest Marples, I’m sorry to say that the site fell in to a bit of disrepair. With no postcode data and no [...]